Two terms explained.
In today’s customer focused industry, two terms are used, often abused, to indicate the degree of consumer care and attention afforded by the provider. For instance, in clothing, Made to Measure typically refers to what is sewn from a standard-sized base pattern. When following this process the garment is based on pre-existing patterns that the manufacturer uses to fit the average buyer. A limited number of alterations are made to this pattern to individualise it as much as possible. On the other hand, Bespoke or “custom made” refers to a garment which is made entirely from scratch based on the customer’s specifications. The second process is labour intensive and costly for the provider but infinitely more rewarding for the consumer.
Where does a presenter / public speaker fit in?
For the “habitual” presenters, the frequency and the quantity of speeches that they are required to deliver place a heavy burden on their creativity and audience care. The situation is accentuated if they operate within a professional environment geared towards “standardised” pitches such as sales or training. This routine approach may lead to loss of
audience interest and attention. In particular, the use of a set pattern of presentation form and content may distance the speaker from the audience. Changes to presentations may be made on the fly, without investigating extensively or in-depth the needs of specific listeners. Chase Murdock, CEO of a US-Based Custom Menswear Brand, proposes a 5 point check list to better recognize and appreciate Bespoke:
1) PATTERN-MAKING: A new pattern is created for each individual wearer.
2) MULTIPLE FITTINGS: Achieving a fit specific to the individual wearer.
3) FABRIC SELECTION: An exclusive selection of fabrics and dyes to suit the taste of the individual wearer.
4) DESIGN / CUSTOMIZATIONS AVAILABLE: No limit on options, regardless of complexity or expense.
5) INDIVIDUAL MEETING WITH TAILOR: A meeting directly with the person constructing the garment.
If these principles were transferred to the art of public speaking – defined as the art of being the most effective at helping participants develop further into capable, responsible speakers and thinkers – then a bespoke presentation would mean the following:
1. Each presentation is unique. Function, form and content should be developed to meet the needs and expectations of specific audiences. Audience characteristics should be the driving and defining forces. The audience should be the focus of the speakers’ efforts. Furthermore, every audience is unique.
2. A presentation is never finished. The speaker needs to collect as much information for the intended occasion and audience and apply it to the specific presentation. This input will affect the design of the presentation down to individual slides and visuals, the analysis of the data and the description of the findings, the tone of the presentation and the level of formality required, the number of examples to be included, the interaction between the speaker and the participants, the length of the speech. The speaker uses slideware to illustrate the talk, draw attention to a point or get a laugh. For instance, pictures are always more effective than lengthy chunks of text; speakers need to get their participants to listen, not to read.
3. Each group of participants needs to feel unique. Participants appreciate exclusivity, the feeling that what they are exposed to has been created especially for them. They appreciate time and effort invested into making them feel special. They need to have their time valued and their intelligence credited.
4. Each presentation is distinct. The presentation must be different in nature and quality from any other. It must avoid stock layouts and backgrounds. It must avoid clichés and ordinariness. At least make an attempt to. Any effort to surprise, stimulate, motivate participants is recognised. Any reuse or recycling of content is similarly frowned upon. Originality and authenticity are factors that fascinate the audience. They should be the goal of every public speaker. Furthermore, presenters should seriously try to find their
own unique style. They should not be pressured into a particular style of presenting, especially one that may be uncomfortable for them.
5. Make yourself available to your audience beforehand. It helps put the speaker in the participants’ shoes as well as the audience in the speaker’s. It offers an opportunity to streamline the approach. It offers the participants the opportunity to present their needs, expectations and thinking. The speaker has the opportunity to see the people behind the faces. It makes using a story and addressing the audience emotions stress-free. Familiarity and friendliness is only fostered through contact and interaction.
Given the amount of work involved, creating bespoke presentations is by no means for the faint hearted. However, it has extremely high added value and can catapult the presenter’s reputation to new heights. Keep in mind that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. A poor bespoke presenter can deliver a speech that is inferior to a professionally prepared speech that uses stock and commonplace features and content.
Remember that according to Herman Melville: “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation”.